Aged 18, Alberto Ginés has just made two pieces of history at the Tokyo Olympics: he’s the first person to be crowned a gold medalist in sports climbing, as well as Spain’s youngest ever gold medal winner.
The next foothold in his climbing career? “I’ll go for another gold,” he told reporters.
Ginés secured victory in the men’s combined final with 28 points as climbing’s first medal-winning showdown at the Olympics came to a dramatic conclusion at the Aomi Urban Sports Park on Thursday.
The podium positions shifted constantly throughout the lead event – the last of three disciplines that were on display in Tokyo. The USA’s Nathaniel Coleman ended the night in second place with 30 points, while Austria’s Jakob Schubert, the only climber to top the lead wall, won a dramatic bronze with the final climb of the competition to finish on 35 points.
Climbers were given points based on their standings over three events – speed, bouldering and lead – which were multiplied together to give a final score, the lower the better.
Ginés said having his “head in the right place,” had been key to his success.
“During the past year, my head hasn’t worked so well for me, since the beginning [of] the season, and I have been working with a specialist, and I think now I can control it (my nerves) a little bit more,” he told reporters.
The sun setting behind the climbing wall, which was lit up against the night sky, made for a picturesque backdrop to the Olympics’ first ever climbing final.
Two stadium announcers, one speaking English and another Japanese, cheered and cajoled climbers as they took to the wall.
Outside the venue, members of the public – unable to attend Olympic events in Tokyo amid the pandemic – lined the adjacent pedestrian street to try and catch a glimpse of the action.
When the competition drew to a close after four-and-a-half hours, the three podium places had ultimately gone to the climbers who topped the standings in each discipline.
Ginés’ speed victory at the start of the night laid the foundations for his gold medal as he beat Japan’s Tomoa Narasaki, who slipped at the bottom of the wall in their head-to-head race, with a time of 6.42 seconds.
Coleman claimed a single point after being the only competitor to solve the second boulder, while Schubert grabbed bronze with a superb lead performance which drew the biggest cheers of the night.
‘Pinnacle of excitement’
Further down the overall standings, the Czech Republic’s Adam Ondra finished in sixth despite being one of the favorites ahead of the final.
Even with a strong performance in the lead, where he placed second, Ondra’s six bouldering points proved costly when it came to his final tally.
“That’s competition. Sometimes it works for you, sometimes it doesn’t work for you,” said Ginés. “Adam was one of the favorites, and today, it just wasn’t a good day for him.”
The women’s combined final takes place on Friday as climbing’s Olympic debut comes to a close.
Among the climbers competing in the men’s event, there were hopes that Thursday’s final had been well-received.
“It was, in many ways, a fortunate final in the fact that the audience got to see how much the routesetting can affect competition,” Coleman told reporters.
“The lead route was set perfectly. When a man (Schubert) tops it at the very last, that’s the pinnacle of excitement in lead climbing competition.”
Ginés was similarly confident that the sport had delivered as a spectacle.
“I think our sport is very visual, so people really like it. I don’t know how many viewers we might have had, but … I’m very happy that it was on TV and people get to view our sport.”